Saturday, 30 April 2016

Be Free Conclusion

April has been the most fun month of the Romeo Project so far. My resolution to Be Free saw me taking a proactive stance to improve my life. It's been a month for reducing stress and promoting wellbeing.
From trying new time management practices, to decluttering my bedroom and my mind, to trying out my very first teatox, I have had such an exciting and stimulating time of it. And making all these positive changes has boosted all aspects of my life as well.

I end the month feeling energized, contented and proud of how much difference a few weeks can make to your mental health. Other people have noticed a change in my mood too (further confirmation for a depressive that it’s not all just in your head). I’ve been asked what has been the cause of my positive outlook and increased confidence.
The answer? My new found freedom.
Whether it’s feeling free from mess, my budget, my schedule, my past, toxins or maybe a combination of all of these – who knows? But it has worked.

I just wish it had lasted longer.

I’m sad to say goodbye to a month of fun-filled challenges, but it’s reminded me that my resolutions are not just for a month; they’re for the whole year. I can keep up the positive changes I have made this month, and apply them for the rest of my life.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Be Free From Your Budget

Yikes. What a title. Next I’ll be telling you to spend as if you’ve won the lotto, right?

Well, no, actually. That’s not what I meant. You see, I’m a bit stingy. Call it a trait I haven’t managed to leave behind since my student days, or just a part of my personality, but I hate spending money.

For every purchase I make, I keep a note of it, add it to my list, review at the end of the month and then lambaste myself for spending more money on books and subscription boxes AGAIN.

I feel tied down to my budget. But what would it be like to be free from my budgetary restrictions?
So this month I have been attending what is free, blagging my way into things that aren't free, and making the most out of nights in.

Budget Friendly Activities this month:
(yes, the boyfriend and me are history nerds and not everything on this list will suit everyone!)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Be Free from Consuming Thoughts

My Mad Fat Diary and Journaling

This month I'm trying to Be Free. It's been a journey so far (more on that in my April conclusion) and part of that journey involved freeing myself from my past. But my mental health difficulties aren't all in the past - I also need to free myself of my fears, worries, and negative thoughts on a regular basis.

That's where writing comes in.
I find writing to be a great coping mechanism for my mental illness and I enjoy the therapeutic and learning process blogging enables. Sure I write my blog posts every couple of days; but often the feelings and thoughts I struggle with are too personal for public consumption on my blog.

But I've been inspired.
Just two weeks ago I started reading Rae Earl's 'My Mad Fat Diary'. I couldn't put it down and I finished the book in just three days.

**I requested to review My Mad Fat Diary from Netgalley.** 

You may have seen the ads for the TV show on E4, or maybe even watched it yourself. I had watched the adverts but never quite gotten around to the show itself. The basic premise is that on release from a psychiatric ward, 17-year-old Rae kept a diary for 365 days in 1989. The result is a very humorous and honest telling of what it's like being an overweight teenage girl with severe OCD. Everything from being bullied to falling in and out of love quicker than Rae can get a description of said guy down on paper is captured with a real sense of humour in the book.
But Rae also has an intellect far beyond her own years and the rest of her small town. She understands and questions world politics. She empathizes with the pain and suffering of others. She criticizes the expectations that come with being a woman.

Friday, 22 April 2016

NotSorry Method

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck 

“The truly free man is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.” 
― Jules Renard, The Journal of Jules Renard
If like me you felt decluttering your room didn't clear all your clutter, then I have the solution.
Having read Marie Kondo's decluttering bible 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up', Sarah Knight decided that she needed a mental decluttering. So she wrote the rather rudely titled book, 'The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck'. It's a parody of Kondo's book; but behind the fun title the book does have a pretty good message. Don't be put-off by the name, Knight actually has some incredible advice on how to free yourself from the things you don't care about.

If you are overextended and overburdened by life, physical tidying isn't enough. Like me, you may be in need for a mental clean-up and in need of purging the things that bring you down. Whether it's a job, a friend, social media, traffic jams - it's time to get rid of the things that cause you stress and take-up your valuable free time.
Earlier this month, I wrote about 'Spinning-your-wheels' and the perils of multi-tasking to avoid your real mental health issues. Often, people with depression take on too much as a coping mechanism for their illness. The definition applied to me, and I could see how I risked burning myself out if I didn't start to prioritise and cut-out the unnecessary things from my life. This is where Knight's book comes in.

To rival the KonMari Method for decluttering, Knight has developed the NotSorry Method.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

How to Spring Clean when you're Sentimental

In many ways, decluttering and spring cleaning was therapeutic. I tackled piles of junk, poor storage space and my much in disrepair book case. As Marie Kondo insisted, I threw away anything that didn’t spark joy. In my case, many of these times were old triggers and it was a release to throw away items that reminded me of the darker days in my mental health journey.

But while trying to free myself from clutter I encountered another problem.
How do you avoid junk when you are sentimental?

While tidying out my room I found items that I had made, stored and bought years ago. Some of these were easy to let go of. But others had memories attached, and these sentimental items were harder to find a home for.

My collection of sentimental items included:
hand-made cards, drawings from my little sisters over the years, fliers of movies I have seen, newspaper clippings, old school projects, concert tickets, movie tickets, receipts from dinner, maps of towns, printed booking confirmation emails, event  brochures, wristbands from festivals or night clubs, hand-made bracelets...

These items did spark joy. So I had to keep them. But where?

I have found a solution for us sentimental declutter-ers. There are tidy and organised ways to keep your sentimental items while also being free from clutter.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


KonMari method has grown in popularity over the past year thanks to Marie Kondo’s book, ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. The book has sold 6 million copies and offers 'Konverts' a life transformation. But decluttering isn't unique to Kondo. Cheryl Rickman raves about how clearing clutter can provide more mental energy in 'The Flourish Handbook'.
So how do you declutter?
From the literature, I gained many tips to help me tidy-up and discard the clutter. These included:
Tidy by category, not location.
Tidy a little everyday.
Tackle one area a day.
Ask 'Does it spark joy?'
Discard anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
Learn that you can do without.
Don't grieve the things you let go of.
Don't save things 'just in case'.

How did I get on?
"Life truly begins after you have put your life in order."
Tidying is an obsession. A compulsion. Addictive.
I've always really enjoyed it. I love tidying and organising and cleaning. But I don't like getting rid of things. I prefer to accumulate keepsakes and items that may possibly be useful someday.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Things I Did on my Device Free Evening

One of the (many) stress inducing things I wanted to be free from this month was devices. I committed to ditching all technology, my phone and laptop, from 11pm at night in my last post. But then I decided to go one further and give them up for one whole evening.

From 5:30pm I ditched my laptop and my phone and spent the whole evening doing things other than surfing the web, binge watching TV shows, and checking my phone for replies.

Here's what I did on my device free evening:

+ Went to the pharmacy
+ Put on laundry
+ Put out the bins
+ Took blog photos
+ Made Dinner
+ Made my bed
+ Cleaned my bedroom
+ Finished my book
+ Had a bath
+ Planned outfits for the weekend
+ Wrote a blog post (on paper of course)
+ Worked on my scrapbook
+ Added to my Bucket List
+ Painted my nails

It's safe to say, I was more productive than ever, and I felt that I was finally achieving something with my post-work evening.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Unplugged : Be Free from Devices

Considering you are currently reading my online blog I'm guessing that you are like me - you just can't get enough of technology. Not just the internet, but phones, tablets and laptops. They rule our lives. My phone is the first thing I check in the mornings and the last thing at night. When I can't get to sleep I take back out my phone and scroll through my social media news feeds.

Social Media brings it's own difficulties when it comes to looking after our mental health. I've written before about how social media made me miserable when I was depressed. It was horrible to have to scroll through posts from people boasting about their ‘perfect’ lives. I couldn’t understand why everyone was living happy lives when I wasn’t. I had nothing else to do but be on Facebook every evening. It was all-consuming and utterly devastating. Don't get me wrong, it is possible to have a healthy relationship with social media and the online world; but it's not always possible to foster a positive attitude when you have a mental illness.

But my evenings are short, and I'm tired of spending my few free hours tied to my computer, often getting frustrated because the internet has stopped working again. And so it has become part of my Be Free resolution this month - to be free from devices.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Time Blocking | Ditch the Schedule

We're almost midway through the month of April and my resolution to Be Free. Today I'm trying to find freedom from my schedule by embracing a new way of getting stuff done - Time Blocking.

What is it?
Time Blocking is a productivity tool that helps you cross tasks off the to-do list and finally, get things done. By dedicating specific hours to specific tasks, you create structure and allow yourself to focus on completing tasks in a set amount of time.
It’s supposed to be a constructive tool to improve your time management skills. So I wanted to free myself from my long task lists and traditional planner, and instead give Time Blocking a try.

How do I spend my time?
Using a free printable from Hey Donna I tracked where my hours go in a typical week. Between my two jobs, I have little other time left in a week.

From Hey Donna

  • Orange is time I spend sleeping
  • Blue is time I spend getting ready, either for work, the week ahead or just showering.
  • Green is time I try to dedicate to spending on the blog. 
  • Purple is time I spend eating or cooking.
  • Red is time I spend socialising or at least hanging out with another person even if we're being unsociable. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Spinning My Wheels

I have a tendency to avoid my problems rather than trying to find a way to solve them.

It’s a tactic I have deployed ever since I can remember.

Since my diagnosis with depression, I have found keeping busy helps me manage my mental health. But is this also an avoidance tactic?

I am a sucker for keeping busy. I feel compelled to do it. I’m a volunteer. I’m a volunteer team leader. I’m an ambassador. I work two jobs. I teach a class mid-week. I can’t enjoy free time without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else. So I multi-task. I write blog posts while also catching up with my favourite TV shows. I read or blog during my commute to work. I spend my free time in the bath (relaxing and washing).
I rush from one place to another, armed with my to-do list.
Multi-tasking helps me avoid anxiety, but then causes more anxiety as I struggle to keep on top of all I have taken on.

But continually keeping busy only serves as a distraction from my mental health difficulties. It doesn't address the problem or work to find a solution.
I thought it was healthy to keep busy, but when I was exploring Cause and Effect during Embrace Your Past month, I learned that I was wrong.

As I attempt to Be Free of stress and my busy schedule this month, I need to better understand my multi-tasking.
Little did I know, it can be categorised as a specific type of depression.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Be Free from Clutter

“What we own is not who we are.” – Mike Fisher, ‘Mindfulness and the Art of Managing Anger’
Declutter is the new buzzword. Especially now that we are in Springtime and full-on Spring cleaning mode. We need to clear our homes and our personal spaces of clutter now more than ever. It's Life Changing. It's a transformation. It sparks joy. Apparently we even have ‘clutter personalities’.

Oxford Dictionary describes decluttering as follows:
to "Remove unnecessary items from (an untidy or overcrowded place)"

So this April, I too have decided I want to be free from clutter.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Letting Go/Moving On

"Sometimes we carry a burden from the day; a hurt, an anger or an unhappy recollection. The end of the day is the time to let these things go. Note these thoughts, face them and acknowledge them - and then dismiss them." - Adam Ford

Last month I was delving into my past and sharing my mental health journey on the blog. Writing about my illness was therapeutic, but I need to fully move on from my past.

There are lots of books about leaving the past behind. Many religious self-help books deal with breaking free from your past and the salvation offered by religion. But that's not for me.

I want to find productive ways of being free from what held me back in the past; be it, bullying, self-doubt, self-hatred, stigma.

From reviewing the self-help literature on the topic the consensus is that we must follow certain steps to be free and move on from the past. These steps roughly go as follows:
  1. Acknowledge the emotions
  2. Let go of anger and blame
  3. Let go of guilt
  4. Forgive yourself
In March, Embrace Your Past allowed me to acknowledge my emotions. But now I have to find a way of letting them go.

So how do we let go?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Feeling Free

SO, I want to Be Free this month. Sounds great, doesn't it?
But it's a vague term. How will I measure its success?

Ah, you see it's all about how I feel.

I want to feel less like this, and more like this

If my brain looks less like a squiggle of multi-tasking, nervous energy and stress then I will deem the month of Be Free a resounding success!

"the free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them." — Charles Bukowski
Here's what I imagine feeling free is like :-

  • Refreshing
  • Calming
  • Empowering
  • Stress-Free
  • Independent
  • Relief
  • Liberating
  • Happiness
  • Sky-diving from an aeroplane
  • Having more time
  • Having the time to do what I enjoy
  • Sitting in the sun in the evening after a day at work
  • Even better, having a day off work
  • Getting to spend time with friends

Doesn’t it sound fab? Here’s to being free this April.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Introduction to my Be Free Resolution

What I want to be free from

“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
It's April, and into month four (yes FOUR) of my Romeo Project self-improvement programme.

Embrace your Past leads effortlessly into my April resolution to Be Free. Having spent March immersed in myself and my past, I plan on finding freedom from it, and all else, that holds me back.

But it's a vague term.

What exactly is Be Free?

Oxford Dictionary describes being free as the ability“to act or be done, as one wishes; not under the control of another.”
It's about being, and feeling, in control.

What do I want to Be Free from?
I want to ditch the things that cause me stress, anxiety and boredom. I want to create more free time for myself, to do the things I really enjoy. There are a number of things that I need to cut out of my life to achieve this. This month is about ditching those things.
Here’s what I want to be free from this month:
- Clutter
- My Schedule
- Stress
- Social Media
- Bad books and Bad TV shows
- Negative Feelings (as much as I can)
- The Past
- My Worries
- Expectations
- My Budget